June 2011s Best Xbox LIVE Indie Games

June 2011 Indie Round Up

There was some good stuff released this month, but it was no May. Oh, May, how I loved you. I think a lot of the awesome stuff we might have seen this month is being held back for the upcoming Summer Uprising, an unofficial version of Xbox LIVE Arcade’s Summer of Arcade.

You can buy any of these games via xbox.com by clicking the link associated with each game, or on the Games Marketplace on your Xbox 360. Simply enter the marketplace and scroll up to Indie Games, where you can check the top rated titles, the games that have just come out, or “browse” to find the games mentioned in this thread. Indie Game trials last eight minutes, which is often enough to establish what you think about it. Even if you don’t buy any of these games, at least trial them, tell people what you think, get more people trying them.

Go. Play. Enjoy. Tell us what you think! Tell all your friends! Get them to tell all their friends…

(Xbox LIVE Indie Games are available in Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the United States. If you’re outside those countries you can still play these games by setting up a Gamertag for free for one of those countries. It’s worth doing.)

For a round up of previous months, click here.

Rainbow Runner is an endless runner which, since the iPhone, has become an incredibly crowded genre.

Rainbow Runner

What a game needs to do, then, is do something different because otherwise you’ll be as tiresome as the rest of them. Rainbow Runner does something differently.

What it does differently is Ikaruga-esque. The enemies are all colour-coded and running through them when you’re the same colour (changed via the face buttons) destroys them without you having to shoot. Run through them with the wrong colour and you’ll lose health. Usually it’s a choice between shooting and bashing through because shooting is done via the right stick, and unless you use controllers in a really weird way the same thumb is used for that and the face buttons.

You can’t absorb fire like in Ikaruga, and so when a boss appears the game suddenly turns into a bullet-hell endless runner hybrid, and it works incredibly well.

Rainbow Runner

You’ll be wanting loads of modes, so the game’s got them. You’ll be wanting different difficulty levels and the game’s got a bunch of them, too. Anything else you want?

Stop being greedy. It’s only 80 points, and wants to be part of your collection, thanks.

Bunker Buster is one of two games Magiko released this month, the other being PLATFORMANCE: Temple Death. Bunker Buster couldn’t really be any different.

Bunker Buster

The game is kinda like a game I played on my dad’s Sinclair QL when I was a kid. In it, a helicopter moved from left to right and moved down a few pixels every time it crossed the screen. You had to bomb skyscrapers one floor at a time because if you didn’t, you’d get too low and crash into them.

It was ace, and so is this. Your craft automatically flies side to side and you can use fuel to control your elevation. You simply have to bomb all the targets in a level to go up a rank and on to the next level. If you lose a level you’ll go down a rank and if you get demoted too far you’ll lose the game. It’s quite compelling trying to beat it without losing a rank, I’ve not seen this “lives” system before but it works really well.

What else works well is the variation in levels. Your plane’s physics change, its rate of fire, and the level layouts and enemies. The concept is simple but every level feels new and totally different. It’s great.

Tacticolor is RISK in real-time. I’ve actually never played risk but it’s how I’m led to understand RISK plays.

Tacticolor

I honestly don’t know what more I can say. You simply have to take over a board by building up your troops and then attacking an enemy territory, with dice rolls deciding the victor depending on how many units you have ready. You have to really keep an eye on stuff, with it being real-time. While you’re waiting for troops to get ready your enemy could launch an attack and it’s a really interesting take on what is a quite traditional mechanic.

Then there’s the presentation to mention, because it looks brilliant. Crisp, clean, modern, just very nice indeed. There’s multiplayer, single player, various difficulties, and in-game awards to earn. It’s right good.

Kung Fu FIGHT! is another endless runner, but much more traditional than Rainbow Runner is.

Kung Fu FIGHT!

So, why isn’t it tiresome? Mainly because of the number of things you have to keep track of, and how closely you need to pay attention if you want to be successful. As an example, there’s a sumo wrestler enemy who leaps into the air to belly-flop you. Sometimes you’ll need to slide underneath him to get past, and sometimes his jump will be timed differently and so you’ll need to leap over the top instead. There’s a subtle difference to look for and react to, and it’s this constant need for attention that makes this fun. Usually you can play these games in a daze without thinking, but not so here.

It looks great, and has a sense of humor too. These things never hurt.

Avatar Battle Bees is a competitive online game with avatars, and bees. There are some single player modes too, but online or in multiplayer is where you’ll want to be the most.

Avatar Battle Bees

For some reason, your avatar is flying around on a bee. A bee which happens to be armed with missiles and guns. I don’t know much about bees and so have to assume that that’s how they really work. It’s an, erm, one of those games where you fly around and shoot at other stuff, kind of like Ace Combat. It’s that genre. Flight-em-up? I don’t even know. But you know what I mean.

It’s fun, it controls really well and there are loads of modes. Presentation is XBLA standard, too, there are no dodgy fonts here. Really good stuff.

PLATFORMANCE: Temple Death is of course, entirely bloody awesome. I probably would have made it game of the month but something else appeared in a rainbow of awesome.

Platformance: Temple Death

It’s more of the same, Platformance-wise. You’ve got one screen with tons of obstacles in your quest to get to the girl and to the top of the online-leaderboards, which are totally addictive. Deaths happen basically everywhere, and the game is awesome.

It’s not quite as good as Castle Pain, as a few obstacles feel a bit more random and so impossible to plan for than they did in Castle Pain, but it’s still brilliant and still addictive as hell and still only 80 points, so why are you waiting?

Sudo-Quick isn’t the best representation of Sudoku ever, because that requires a piece of paper and a pencil. It is a really cool videogame implementation, though, with a focus on speed and easy controls. You’re told what box to fill in and then you fill it, so you don’t have to hang around working out every possibility for every box because you can always work out the one box it’s given you. This does make it kind of easy, but with timers and such there’s still pressure. It’s like Sudoku as an action game, or something.

Arc Lancer is a twin-stick kinda game, in space. It’s not just score attacking though, you have missions to take on, upgrades to buy and it’s all rather fun. Even the actual twin-stick part which is usually rubbish.

Insanity X is I don’t know what it is. You just kill all the enemies on a screen and move on (or just leave them and move on). You go from room to room to room until you die. I don’t know if there’s a win condition or anything, but it’s strangely playable anyway, even not knowing what the point is.

Pixelbit Helicopter Challenge is similar to Rotor, in that it’s a helicopter game with mini challenges and stuff to complete. It’s not quite as stylish as Rotor though, and the controls are much simpler so when you complete a challenge, there’s not quite as much satisfaction as there is when you master something in Rotor. It’s still fun, just an easier kind of fun.

Monster Escape is a puzzle game in which you have to build paths for monsters and collect eggs, reach exits, and avoid enemies and the such. Nice presentation, and a very interesting idea. It could have been implemented better, but it’s still worth having a go to see a puzzle game you’ve not seen before.

Them Blockz is another puzzle game, and it’s Sokoban-like in a way. You move around and as you move, blocks stick to you. You then have to manoeuvre them to an exit. This is obviously simple at first but you can easily block yourself in once you’ve got loads of blocks stuck on at once and a tiny passage to fit inside. Which is what ‘she’ said. So some good puzzling, here.

TIC: Part 1 could have been the game of the month if it was longer, as it is it just doesn’t offer value for money, really. It’s gorgeous, the story is great, the gameplay is fun and the music is lovely, but with a story that lasts just over half an hour, there’s simply not enough here. It’s still worth playing, though, because it really is a sight to behold.

Lair of the Evildoer is probably a game in a genre that has a name, but I don’t know what that might be because it’s quite a lot of things. Part RPG, part twin-stick, part date-sim, part shooter. Okay, not the date-sim part. You just travel through a building, collecting weapons and destroying zombies IN THE FACE. Then just carry on going. The controls are a bit… much… at times, but it’s still an enjoyable experience, it’s always nice when a zombie game doesn’t just have zombies in to appeal to zombie nutters but is a genuinely cool game outside it.

Some games are bad. Really bad. So bad that they don’t even deserve a functioning link to the Xbox LIVE Marketplace. But if you’re in the mood for some punishment, or just want to be reminded how much better the games above are, check these out, last month’s most terrible games.

Pick is just the worst thing ever. It claims to be like Guitar Hero for every song in your library, or something, when in actuality you might as well just listen to the radio and press buttons on your guitar controller without even turning your Xbox on, because the song recognition is completely absent. You just press random buttons while a song plays. Terrible.

Avatar Word Wave is that all-too-common mash-up, of crosswords and roller-disco. Or something. Unfortunately, neither aspect works particularly well and having to play them together is impossible because you can’t concentrate on them both. It’s like trying to play Halo at the same time as playing Mozart on the piano.

Bamdizzle Bamdizzle Bamdizzle Bamdizzle Bamdizzle Bamdizzle. You’ll see what I mean.

Call me Skyfish is a poor looking platform that plays exactly how it looks.

A Game About My Cat is bad for two reasons. Firstly for gluing me to a slope so I can’t jump with momentum alone like Tiny Wings, and secondly for telling me how awesome it is to have a cat. I know. I want a cat more than anything but I can’t have one. YOU JUST UPSET ME, GAME. I HAVE SAD FACE.

Case o Games is impressive if only for how you can make so many games available in one package and yet still have no redeeming qualities.

When Maidens Attack is, well, there aren’t many games that the “what is this I don’t even” meme sums up much better than this.

Beach Paddle is a variation of a game with paddles that nobody’s allowed to say the name of when they make a version of Pong. Crap, I mean a version of “generic paddle game.” Stupid anime girls with little in the way of clothing are completely unnecessary and only there for one reason. BRB.

Angry Wizards is a similar thing to Lair of the Evildoer, but slowed down to such a ridiculous level that each stage takes bloody ages as you walk through empty hallways like a geriatric with no feet.

Ballbuster. Get it? BALLBUSTER!! The game is about busting actual balls like children play with but it sounds like- oh, never mind.

And to end on an awesome note…

Every month, we’ll revisit a couple of games that you may have missed from months gone by. These games are lost in the depths of the Games Marketplace, pull them out of there! Played a really awesome Indie Game in the past? Hit me up on twitter @toythatkills and recommend stuff! Is “hit me up” still something “the kids” say? What about “the kids,” is that still a thing too?

MotorHEAT is a racing game of sorts, as you can tell from the screenshot. It’s not so much about the driving as it is the avoiding, though! You auto accelerate and your job is just to move left and right to avoid traffic.

Of course, there’s more to it than that. Avoiding traffic by the smallest of margins will increase your boost meter (RT) and then you can go even faster, scoring more points.

MotorHEAT

It’s a score attack game, this. You just score as much as you can before time runs out, getting extra time for passing checkpoints and points for distance, overtaking cars, using boost, and all sorts.

What I love most is the risk/reward, which is just awesome. You get more boost and more points for passing cars within mere centimetres and with boost activated, but then there’s a huge risk of crashing and being penalised ten seconds. Do you dare get closer? Do you dare? It’s brilliant.

Also brilliant is the online leaderboard (Gold only and peer-to-peer) which updates your position as you race, telling you how many points you need to move up to another position in the overall leaderboard.

It’s just great, this. Totally great.

Skwug is a 2D platformer with a nice gimmick. You can warp to new places.

Warping always moves you the same distance you can always judge where you’re going to warp to, and you can only warp three times before having to recharge by landing on the floor.

Skwug

This makes for some really unique platforming, as you warp over spikes and through lasers, and allows for some interesting puzzles as well with the limit on warps meaning doing things in the right order is sometimes essential. Switches play a part, switches means puzzles.

You won’t have played a 2D platformer like this before and you’ll be playing this one for ages. There are loads of levels and then some medals to go for for being quick and finding items.

Most fun.

So, what did you think of these games? What do you think of what you’re playing this month?

Enjoy your Indie Games.